In transit to Northern Africa

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Europe » Italy
November 14th 1974
Published: October 7th 2021
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The flight from Tel Aviv reached Athens by 11.15am and I made it back to Constitution Square an hour later. I picked up mail from American Express and had a very fond reunion with Joan. We returned to the hotel for a catch up for each of us on the events of the preceding week, before a late lunch (as in 4.30pm late!) of cakes and stuff before taking a stroll around the palace area. We went back to the hotel, where after a clean-up and clothes wash, we took off for a great reunion dinner. There were plenty of demonstrations and general political fiasco at Constitution Square, but we were too tired to check out the full proceedings as we needed to get ready to be on the move again.

This was another of our low accomplishment mornings – breakfast and packing seemed to take us up to midday. We then took off up to Syntagma for a bus ride to Patras, which took some 4 hours, with arrival around 5.30pm. We got some pretty views of the Corinth coast, and also crossed the Corinth Canal, which was rather impressive. There wasn’t much to do in Patras until the boat for Brindisi in Italy left at 10pm, so we just stocked up on groceries and had a very leisurely dinner of fish balls and salad. We ended up down in the seating areas of the boat with about a dozen other young people, and while there was plenty of room to spread out, it was far from comfy. We passed time with an interesting conversation with a very gay academic from Cambridge University, who took a bit of shrugging off later on as we became his ‘best friends’, and a late-night game of cards with Americans, Kevin and Marion. Later, an audience with an Italian crew member, who seemed like he wanted to chaperone us, was less welcome.

It was another pretty mediocre night’s sleep, but at least we rose to a beautiful sunny morning with calm seas. The ferry stopped at each of Igoumenista and Corfu, taking on several more passengers at each. There was not too much time to look around at either stop, but we had a bit of a chance to check out some of the areas close to the terminal at Corfu before taking off again at around 9.30am. We spent most of the day on the deck talking to first, Americans Nick & Terry, then four Aussie cops on their way back home from a 12 months term in Cyprus with the UN peace-keeping force. The day passed reasonably quickly, with a bit of sunning and the general friendliness of the young people on board. There were no undue hassles on arrival at Brindisi around 5pm (clocks back an hour) and we made straight to the booking agent who was most helpful in arranging trains and a ferry to Tunisia. We had a pizza snack before catching the 7pm train to Taranto, where we arrived about 90 minutes later and made straight for a local restaurant for a spag bol meal. We returned to the station for the 10pm overnight train to Reggio di Calabria and were lucky enough to find a cabin to ourselves for the trip. We transformed this into couchettes, and settled down for the evening, hoping there would be no intruders to interrupt our night .....

Fortune was on our side and we had no interruptions at all except for the guard checking our tickets, and he seemed to be on our side. We reached Reggio di C before 7am but hanging around at the seaport station lost us almost a couple of hours. It was a bit of a novelty for us when for the first time in our lives we were on a train which was loaded inside a ferry for the seas crossing. We finally got into Messina in Sicily at around 9.30am. It was a very clear and sunny day, but we decided to make it straight for Palermo, which reputedly had much more to offer. We took another train an hour later for what turned out to be a great journey along the Sicilian coastline, with the water looking really tempting. The interior was much more mountainous, with much agriculture and fruit plantation prolific along the coastline. We reached Palermo in the early afternoon and met up again with Aussie Wendy, who joined us for the night at Aubergo Rosalia near the station. Joan and I had a stroll about the town but didn’t get far due to lack of maps and tourist info. A meal of pizza and local rose, combined with the last two nights on the run made us crash early.

We were up next morning around 9am for another of our pastries and milk breakfasts. It was yet another clear sunny day, so the two of us strolled downtown to ‘centro citta’ checking out such sights as the Fountain of Pretoria, Massimo Theatre, and the Politeama Theatre on the way. We dropped into the Tunis Air office to pick up some brochures before checking out of the hotel and making it to the station for the midday train to Trapani. We ended up in a wrong carriage, resulting in a 4-hour trip instead of a little over 2 hours, but the countryside was very pretty, with many vineyards and other agriculture, little yellow-stone farm houses, and the occasional stone ruins. I brushed up on my paltry Italian in some conversation with a guard and a schoolteacher during the trip. On arrival at Trapani, we checked into the Pensione Moccatto, where we had a good cleanup, although peeved that we had to pay 500 Lit each for a hot shower. We strolled around the town, which was again very appealing, with its narrow pedestrian shopping streets. We picked up some homemade lollies at a stall, then took in the same meal as last night, pizza and rose, only much cheaper this time round. Again, an early night by 10pm.

Fortunately, there were no hassles at all with disembarkation from Italy. We had a quick breakfast, then purchased some bread, ham and drinks before boarding the ferry with destination Tunis at 10am, sailing out an hour later. By pure coincidence, it was exactly the same ferry that I had sailed on from Naples to Sardinia a few months back when I had been doing my solo travels.


8th October 2021
Pretoria Fountain in Palermo

travel blog
Thanks for sharing amazing travel blog
8th October 2021
Corinth Canal

Cool View
Nice one
12th October 2021

Ferry from Patras
Sylvia and I did a similar trip from Patras but to Venice. Even in 2012 the ship was crap. See our blog:

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